Video: Egypt's Other Revolution (It's About You, Too)
By Al Giordano
At present, the Narco News Advance Team is in the Mexican Southeast, preparing our coverage of the upcoming second stage of the Caravan of Solace and the movement against the drug war inspired by Javier Sicilia. From September 8 to 18 we’ll be accompanying Sicilia and other family members of drug war victims and martyrs through the states of Morelos, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, crossing the border into Guatemala – where Sicilia tells Narco News he plans to offer an apology to the people of Central America for the maltreatment of their immigrants in Mexican territory – then through Zapatista territory, and the states of Tabasco, Veracruz, Puebla, the state of Mexico and, finally, in Mexico City. These are lands from where we’ve reported extensively for the past 14 years (11 of them via Narco News) and we can report to you already that there is a palpable excitement among many of the movements in the Mexican South for this upcoming visit, including yesterday’s communiqué from Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos reiterating “total support” for Sicilia and the movement (a statement that ought to be humbling to some who have accomplished far less yet who behave as more-radical-than-thou armchair critics of the world’s first ever mass movement to end the war on drugs).
Meanwhile, our second video in a series about the Egyptian revolution – narrated by those who helped make it happen – is now ready, and, in a way, it is precisely relevant to some of the discussions and debates in and around Mexico about whether Sicilia and his allies should collaborate, speak with, (in the most extreme silliness, whether they should “kiss” or “hug”), people with whom they openly disagree. This question was already answered only seven months ago this week in Egypt! And now you can see and hear how it happened, on video. Perhaps it is also relevant to debates and discussions and unanswered questions in your own land, too…
How many news stories, essays, videos and other reports have you seen about the Egyptian Revolution that “began,” according to many breathless reports, on January 25 of this year and culminated in the February 11 resignation of the three-decade dictator Hosni Mubarak? And how many of those reports spoke in fearsome terms about an organization called the Muslim Brotherhood as if it were some monolithic force aspiring to impose an Iran-style theocracy on the country?
Especially while the revolution was going through those key moments, so many pundits warned that if Mubarak were to be removed then the Muslim Brotherhood would take over and bring something even worse. But when School of Authentic Journalism professor Greg Berger and I traveled to Cairo a month after Mubarak was driven from power, and teamed up there with Joe Rizk and other new friends and colleagues to interview, on video, the young people who helped organize that revolution, we gained a completely different perspective on the Muslim Brotherhood, in good part thanks to meeting Mohammad Abbas, the 26-year-old organizer who emerged from that organization and who narrates this video, above, part II in our series on The Daily Life of Egypt’s Revolution.
(If you missed Part I, narrated, in English, by Aalam Wassef, you’ll want to see that, too: Especially if you are a video or media maker, journalist or blogger with dreams of reporting or inspiring fundamental change in your own land: Egypt: How We Did It When the Media Would Not. In addition to everything else it teaches, Part I serves as an excellent guide to how to make your videos or media “go viral” and speak with far more people than you might otherwise reach. For example, if you are putting videos or blog entries online and only getting a few hundred viewers, you're doing something wrong; Aalam explains how, in Egypt, it was done right.)
The interview with Abbas, in Part I of this series, illuminates many untold stories from Tahrir Square and the meetings and community organizing behind the revolution. Perhaps most importantly, Abbas speaks of his own personal experience – our questions focused heavily on getting these talented young organizers to talk in the first person about what they saw, heard, felt and thought during these historic events – as a Muslim who, for the first time, found himself working closely with Christians, secular leftists and others who were not part of the Muslim Brotherhood, many of whom in fact feared its members, and vice versa.
In so much of the developed world (and increasingly “gringotized” or “globalized” movements in the developing world), too much of “activism” has been reduced to seeking out the differences in opinion or culture between people and excluding others based on those divisions: secularists vs. religious people, believers in one god vs. believers in another, and “identity politics” that exclude people of different classes, genders, races, creeds, tendencies and orientations. What Abbas and everyone else we interviewed in Egypt concluded based on their experience organizing a successful revolution (successful, in that it took gigantic leaps forward and continues working today to concretize and advance its gains, because authentic revolutions are not romantic moments in time but permanent works-in-construction), was that the revolution became one only because they dropped their prejudices and fears and learned how to overcome their differences to work together on the goals they shared: the toppling of a dictator, and continuing into the present, the defeat of dictatorship itself.
Abbas speaks glowingly of how the youth of his organizations – politically considered to be on the religious right of his country’s political spectrum – came together with socialists and other radicals and what he learned from them. He talks of his newfound friendship with Coptic Christian organizer Sally Moore, and how they now speak daily and playfully scold each other if one is late in calling on any given day.
This video also shows the evolution of Abbas and many of his colleagues who, after the revolution, set off from the Muslim Brotherhood mothership to form their own new political force in Egyptian politics, laying waste to all the fears and lies that the Brotherhood would be some monolithic dominant force in a more democratic Egypt.
This video presents the story of a revolution within the revolution. And isn’t that always the case with nonviolent revolutions? That the change that occurs is not just up above with the faces and names of those in power, but is also, most profoundly and permanently, in the way that the participants see themselves and act having experienced the most historic of societal changes together.
We went to Egypt, as I’ve mentioned here previously, taking up the goal as expressed in 1963 by the Situationist Raoul Vaneigem, who said: "By a strange oversight, no historian has ever taken the trouble to study how people actually lived during the most extreme revolutionary moments."
The aftermath of Egypt's revolution finally offered us the opportunity to do just that.
Mohammed Abbas, like Aalam Wassef in Part I of this series, tells us all something about how he and others actually lived during the most extreme of revolutionary moments, and how the revolution, far from being just something external and impersonal for the history books, shook and changed its participants as well.
There are those who say that one cannot change the world unless and until one change’s one’s self. There is a kernel of truth in that, but only if acted upon together with its correlative truth: That one cannot change himself or herself without also immersing one’s self in the moment with others, listening to, learning from, and working together with them. It is there, and only there, that we discover the greater truth about ourselves. The human being is not a nation-state with borders, visas to be stamped and immigration officials to wall itself away from all that is outside of it. This video tells the news story of the Egyptian revolution from the organizer’s perspective of one of the key revolutionaries, but it also tells the story of the revolutionary himself, someone not unlike you or me, born into one culture and set of circumstances, who became more himself by opening himself up to those who come from other cultures and circumstances. Multiply Mohammad Abbas’ story several million times, and there you have the real story of what can be made to happen in an entire nation even under the most repressive of regimes or otherwise difficult circumstances.